Each exam gets a little easier to prepare for. It takes no less time but it takes less of a toll on me. My last exam had me using my treadmill at 3am to burn off nervous energy and the one before that had me reconsidering my career choice. I think I’ve gained a pound or two, less than a percent of my body weight and this may be due to the fact that I’ve eaten 3 lbs of peanut butter in one week. Two days ago, I decided to be classy and purchased almost two pounds of artisan cheese. That cheese is now gone. If this be the price of victory, I pay it gladly.

My memory for normal facts has deserted me and I’ve forgotten how cardinal directions work in addition to the finer points of arithmetic (such as 1+1 not equaling one) have taken holidays from my memory. I ask for no pity as I bring this entirely on myself. Most actuaries are less melodramatic with the toll exams can take on ones life. A Quebecois coworker who is also an actuary once said “I do not know why you complain. You either pass the exams and become an actuary, or you fail and you do not.” She’s like a statistical Hemmingway.

Recently I’ve also started noting some benefits. I have a certain confidence to being able to do large, difficult things if I want them. In the equivalent time of my last two exams, I probably could have become reasonably good at a foreign language or written a short novel or collection of stories. I could have mastered southern cooking or gotten back up to running 10Ks. I could have Again, this isn’t regret so much as a note to myself that when this is over, I will have little excuse not to do something of my time. On the more productive side, I could have watched every episode of the Simpsons or Law & Order.

I plan to. In the meantime, I have some practice problems to do/peanut butter to finish.

My two priorities are getting a better job and improving my health.  As they are priorities, I’m actively working on them and they win when they get in fights with other tasks.  I go into work late and stay late if I have a late night running and social events lose to work functions that may allow me to advance myself.  Part of the “better job” priority has been catching up on actuarial math and preparing to re-take exam P/1.  My calculus muscles were very out of shape when I started and I cursed myself for not remember if it was the integral or derivative of f'(x)/f(x) which equaled the ln(f(x)) but after a bit the work grew on me.  I was again dealing with things where I was unambiguously wrong.  Data at work can be misinterpreted, interactions with people are indecisive but with sample test questions I had the opportunity to do something I had missed, being simply and irrefutably wrong.  In that I find freedom.

I spent another morning staring blankly at equations and methods that make the more arcane aspects of alchemy seem pedestrian and decided to call it a day after I successfully got an answer to a sample problem.  Mind y0u, it wasn’t the right answer, but I was very proud that my wrong answer was one of the wrong answers listed in the text.  After moments like these I sometimes second guess a math-inclined career so I struck up an AIM conversation with someone else who was in my position a few years ago that I hadn’t talked to lately.

Me: Did you ever have those times where you ran into a roadblock and got mad?
Him: Yes, but you learn to work through them.  You have moments of inspiration where suddenly you realize you’re an idiot.
Me: So how did you deal with constantly running into those puzzleboxes?
Him: After I took the 3rd exam the 3rd time and failed I decided to go to law school.
Me: Really?
Him: Best decision I’ve ever made.

Well, that’s encouraging.

One of the nominal goals I had for my furlough was to prepare for my next two actuarial exams and today I started studying again after at least a year from last having actively tried to expand my knowledge of actuarial math.  I spent a solid four hours catching up on the basics of integration, followed by the basics of derivation and at one low point the basics of order of operation.  This last point was the computational equivalent of standing up after sitting for a while and kind of losing your balance but the fact that it happened at all made my inner calculator cry a little bit.  I’ve come to an inescapable conclusion that I’ll probably reiterate a thousand times over the next few months: Math hard.

Item by item review of 2008 Resolutions

1) Pass another actuarial exam – Fail
2) Complete new Ockanickon page – Win
3) Learn how to make a yule log (food, not combustible) – Win
4) Remove all dead skin from feet – Win
5) Find job as actuary that doesn’t involve moving to Pittsburgh – Fail
6) Re-arrange room and set-up new treadmill arrangement – Epic Win
7) “Box” assistant camp director knowledge – Slow Fail
8 ) Scan important documents and old photos – Photo Fail, Documents Win

Site specific goals:
1) Cover a logical fallacy every-other week, Fail but my end game’s changed with the fork between suburbanadventure.com and logicwarrior.net
2) Post Daily Highlights within 48 hours 80% of the time – Win, even through camp
3) Complete 5 Projects or Joe Baloke trips – Fail, I’ve moved away from using a fake person.  I’ve embraced transparency on the web and use terryrobinson as my username for just about every new service I join with exception of games
4) Add back-log of pictures to Flickr – Abandoned, Flickr no longer my photo backup solution

2009 Resolutions

  1. Pass another actuarial exam
  2. Run a rippin’ Klondike Derby
  3. Get an actuarial job that doesn’t involve moving to Pittsburg
  4. Scan family photos
  5. Create online version of at least 3 merit badges
  6. Drop a hobby
  7. Get Logicwarrior.net up and running (vague, I know, but I’m not sure how to detail this)
  8. Learn PHP, MySQL, CSS or develop competence in a programming language

Maintained Goals

  1. Continue posting here near daily
  2. Continue treadmilling 10-12 miles a week
  3. Continue keeping up with world news
  4. Continue pursuing value

Exam MLC is an odd combination of life contingencies, properties of aggregate distributions and Markov Chains so goes back and forth between old retiring, old people walking picking up coins and old people dying.  There’s always a medium sample question where you have a bunch of old farts and you’re asked to determine the likelihood they’ll all die.  The group isn’t large enough to assume normal distribution of deaths nor small enough that you can grind it out by hand in a reasonable period of time so you have to use stupid tricks that all start “assume seven people are one person” but somehow work.  This one involved auto accidents and having no idea how to solve it swiftly wanted to put: “Probably that all 20 will die auto accidents before they’re 85 = 100%.  Bus accident.”  I know, I know.  I’ll revolutionize risk management.

There was a question that I’m pretty sure was written in doublespeak and no matter how many times I read it I couldn’t make it out.  It was something to the tune of “given accidents occur with the following intensity (equation) where each accident involves at least one victim, what’s the minimum average number of victims per accident.”
1) Minimum average is like saying “exact approximation” in that the words are fine next to each other but mean nothing.
2) Would the minimum be 1?  Almost all the answer were less than one.  Unless they were saying accident victims had it coming and should be counted as people.

The actual exam was fun if one enjoys being frisked for black market calculators and shims of paper.  The next exam will probably involve either a cavity search or a polygraph test.

Hazaa to professional development.

I’m currently sitting on a bench outside a Dunkin’ Donuts between the Reading Terminal Market and Market Street Station thinking of the exam I could have probably done better on by selecting answers through analyzing the entrails of risk management majors.  The exam itself wasn’t too bad, I felt good that I had a strong sense of whether or not I got a question wrong, the rule was simple: if I selected an answer, I probably got the question wrong.  But the oddest event of the day was when I went into Wawa at 20 of 7:00 AM and walked in on the person operating the register talking with some sorostitute about some sort of doctor’s visit in an unusually upbeat manner.

Register operator: Yeah, it turns out the test results were positive.
Sorostitute: Well, that’s sad.
Register operator: Well, you know me, I’ll go down smiling all the way.
Sorostitute: You will.
Register operator: It’s ok.  Just keep going.

After 20 seconds of disbelief and me thinking that they’d break out in Seasons of Love or something else from Rent, I walked out.  Standing there in a Wawa parking lot at quarter of 7:00 AM with a turkey sausage bagel in my left hand and a kielbasa in my right I realized something:  No matter what happens in the next few hours, I’m alive…. and by 2 PM will have wasted $375 failing an actuarial exam.